Q&A WITH ALEC OGLETREE
Alec Ogletree was the toast of the offseason for the Georgia Bulldogs. Going back to spring practice and all the way through preseason, the experiment of moving the 6-foot-3, 240-pound sophomore from strong safety to inside “Mo” linebacker was said to be an unmitigated success. Coaches and teammates spoke in excited anticipation of the havoc Ogletree was going to wreak playing down close to the line of scrimmage in the middle of the Georgia’s 3-4 defense. “He was practicing extremely well,” coach Mark Richt said. “He was making most of the tackles and he was doing it with some enthusiasm and some physicality. He has the ability to knock people back and he has the ability to run sideline-to-sideline and he has the ability to cover well. He has all the tools.”
But all the air from that balloon was sucked out just two defensive series into the season opener against Boise State. Ogletree broke the fifth metatarsal bone in his right foot in the first quarter. The break was confirmed on X-rays right there at the Georgia Dome and Ogletree has been sidelined ever since.
Make that WAS sidelined. The former AJC Super 11 selection and 5-star prospect was cleared for practice last week. Sunday night, Richt announced that Ogletree would in fact start his first game back next Saturday against Florida in Jacksonville. Defensive coordinator Todd Grantham left little doubt that would be the case upon watching Ogletree negotiate his first full-contact practice last week. “It was exciting,” Grantham said with a rare grin. “He looked good. I was fired up.” Here’s a what Ogletree had to say about the injury ordeal and his feelings as he prepares to come back against the Gators:
Q: What exactly happened to break your foot?
A: “I just stepped and tried to turn and run and my foot didn’t turn with me. It just stayed there and popped.”
Q: Do you think it was those new Nike Pro combat shoes?
A: “I don’t really know. It was bound to happen from what the doctors told me. It just happened to happen then.”
Q: I heard you actually played a while with your foot broken. That true?
A: “I played two series with it broken. When I did it, I just started saying, ‘man, I think I broke my foot.’ I tried to shake it off but as play kept going I knew I had actually done something bad to it. I was telling all the guys, ‘I think I broke my foot.’ They were just yelling, ’shake it off, man!’ But I could tell it was bad.”
Q: What was going through your mind when you realized you were seriously injured?
A: “I was devastated actually. I’d never been injured to the point I was sidelined for a long period of time. So it was kind of hard for me. But at the same time I knew I had guys who could back me up and step in and play. And that’s what they’ve been doing, so it really hasn’t been a problem.”
Q: Any concerns whatsoever with the foot now?
A: “No. I don’t feel any pain at all. I just try not to think about it and just go out there and play.”
Q: What did you think of the job Mike Gilliard, Amarlo Herrera, Jeremy Sulek and those guys did in your absence?
A: “I had great confidence in what we could do because of how hard we worked in the offseason and how guys had a different state of mind than last year, the work ethic and stuff. They did a wonderful job as far as stepping into play for both me and Christian [Robinson]. So I give big ups to the guys for that. I mean, I didn’t think ‘Mike G’ was going be SEC Player of the Week, but I knew he could play. So that part wasn’t a surprise. Amarlo stepped up real good for us, too.”
Q: They have played awfully well. Are you worried how you might fit back in?
A: “That’s up to the coaches. Everybody is still going to come out and work hard. No position is given to you around here, so you’ve got to work for it. And that’s what I’m going to do. Each and every day, all four of us, me, Christian, Mike G and Amarlo, we’re going to go out there and work every day, whether I’m starting or he’s starting or whoever’s starting.”
Q: Any discussion of you playing some strong safety with Shawn Williams out for the first half?
A: “No, I don’t think so. I’m just trying to get back into the flow of things at linebacker.”
Q: You and Cornelius Washington both come back this week, but y’all lose Williams and Kwame Geathers for a half. Has it been frustrating not being able to have the full defensive complement on the field for this team?
A: “Like I’ve said, each of the 11 positions on this defense, everybody’s got backups that can step into play any time. So with them coming out I know we’ve got guys that can back them up.”
Q: How eager are you to play again in a real game?
A: “I’m very anxious to get back out there in a game and get going again. I’ve been out so long, right now I’m just trying to work on my conditioning and trying to jell back with the defense. I just want to help my team the best I can.”
|– Chip Towers